En­durance sports are sud­denly in fash­ion. YUKI HAYASHI in­ves­ti­gates the rea­sons why women ev­ery­where are rac­ing to the fin­ish line.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents -

More women than ever are train­ing for triathlons and races. Yuki Hayashi ex­plores the pop­u­lar­ity of en­durance sports.


train­ing for a half marathon. From lunchtime sweat ses­sions to trad­ing Fri­day night cock­tails for early morn­ing runs, in­creas­ing num­bers of your friends are sac­ri­fic­ing so­cial time to log train­ing miles. Or maybe you’re friends with a triath­lete, in which case it has prob­a­bly been weeks since you’ve seen her, since her typ­i­cal pre-race train­ing in­cludes 12 to 15 hours a week of swim­ming, bik­ing and run­ning, not to men­tion weight train­ing and yoga. Yet in spite of the ex­treme time com­mit­ment re­quired, en­durance sports, such as dis­tance run­ning and triathlons, are boom­ing, largely fu­elled by fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion. »

Sixty-one per cent of the nearly 2 mil­lion run­ners who com­pleted a 21.1-kilo­me­tre half marathon in the U.S. in 2013 were women. The per­cent­age of fe­male marathon­ers has also risen over the past decade, now ac­count­ing for 43 per cent of fin­ish­ers in the 42.2-kilo­me­tre dis­tance event. Even the gru­elling Iron­man triathlon (which con­sists of a 3.8-kilo­me­tre open-wa­ter swim, fol­lowed by a 180-kilo­me­tre bike ride and, fi­nally, a full marathon run) is at­tract­ing more women than ever: Last year 26 per cent of its North Amer­i­can par­tic­i­pants were fe­male, an 80 per cent jump since 2010.

There are a num­ber of rea­sons for the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of en­durance sports: Stud­ies show regular ex­er­cise will make you health­ier, hap­pier and more fit. En­durance train­ing packs ad­di­tional benefits. “The heart strength­ens, im­prov­ing its abil­ity to cir­cu­late blood, and the mus­cles be­come more ef­fi­cient at uti­liz­ing en­erg y aer­o­bi­cally,” says ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist Kelly Macken­zieRife, who is based in Courte­nay, B.C. Trans­la­tion: You can go harder and longer, kick­ing up your com­fort zone from 5K ter­ri­tory to half marathons and be­yond. (That said, in­creas­ing your mileage too quickly could lead to over­train­ing, knee pain or stress frac­tures. To avoid this, never add more than 10 per cent to the dis­tance you ran the week be­fore.) Begin­ners should fol­low a train­ing plan from a rep­utable source like Run­ner’s World or join a run­ning clinic, but talk to your doc­tor be­fore start­ing. (In some cases, ex­treme en­durance train­ing can be harm­ful, though stud­ies show this is more of a con­cern for mid­dle-aged men.)

For many busy pro­fes­sion­als, en­durance train­ing is also about un­plug­ging from to­day’s hy­per-con­nec­tiv­ity. “I train alone. It’s my ‘me time,’ and I en­joy it,” says half marathoner Vicky Shaugh­nessy, 33, direc­tor of art and vis­ual com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Pink Tar­tan in Toronto.

“The long hours of train­ing are med­i­ta­tive. It’s a chance to get away from the busy­ness of ‘real life’ for a bit, re­flect on the day and think about any­thing—or noth­ing at all,” says Karin Olaf­son, a web edi­tor in Cal­gary. The 25-yearold triath­lete and half marathoner com­pleted her first half Iron­man last year.

But it’s not just health and well­ness. Let’s be hon­est: How you work out says a lot about your iden­tity (com­pare tough-chick CrossFit to earth-mama yoga, for ex­am­ple). For run­ners, the brag­ging rights come in the form of mud-splat­tered run­ning shoes and tweets like “18Ks in the bag! #NBD!” And who could blame them? (Though it can make you feel pretty bad about just walk­ing the dog.) En­durance events are badass, while on-brand with your fab­u­lous life: Des­ti­na­tion races, post-long-run brunches, cov­etable run­ning clothes—fit­ting, since some race­courses could be mis­taken for run­ways.

Mod­els Natalia Vo­di­anova and Kar­lie Kloss took time out of Paris Fash­ion Week to run the Paris Half Marathon in March. On Instagram, Kloss jok­ingly cred­ited »

her sub-two-hour fin­ish time to all the time she spent strut­ting on the cat­walk that sea­son. Mean­while, Christy Turling­ton Burns has run two of Amer­ica’s big­gest races: the New York City Marathon and the Chicago Marathon.

Race or­ga­niz­ers are chas­ing the boom­ing fe­male mar­ket. Canada’s hottest half marathon is Lu­l­ule­mon’s SeaWheeze in Van­cou­ver, which pairs its Pa­cific back­drop with a fin­ish line fes­ti­val and plenty of yoga. The in­ter­na­tional Nike Women’s Race Se­ries in­cludes the popular Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Fran­cisco, where, in lieu of a clunky medal, fin­ish­ers get a sleek Tif­fany & Co. fin­ish neck­lace. Dis­ney’s RunDis­ney marathon and half marathon race se­ries caters to af­flu­ent moms ea­ger to com­bine a fam­ily va­ca­tion with their quest for a per­sonal-best fin­ish time. The girly Di­vas Half Marathon & 5K Se­ries hands out tiaras, as well as post-race bub­bly. And on the triathlon front, Iron­man’s Iron Girl pro­gram courts begin­ners via shorter gate­way races. Run­ notes that in 2013, there were a stag­ger­ing 28,200 races of vary­ing dis­tances, an all-time high.

With all th­ese events—and so many of them in the U.S.—travel is a given. “I usu­ally en­ter races with my hus­band, as it’s some­thing we en­joy do­ing to­gether,” says Shaugh­nessy. “We’ve trav­elled to races in Mon­treal and Ottawa, and would love to do a race trip some­where warm like Cal­i­for­nia.”

Given the de­mand for mar­quee en­durance events like the New York City Marathon, Paris Marathon, Vir­gin Money Lon­don Marathon and RunDis­ney’s Cal­i­for­ni­aand Florida-based events, niche travel agen­cies pro­mote pricey ho­tel/race-en­try packages. In some cases, this may be the only way to buy into a sold-out race. Ho­tels are also mak­ing it eas­ier to train. The Westin Ho­tels & Re­sorts chain em­ploys a “run concierge” in many lo­ca­tions to lead guided runs and has part­nered with the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Se­ries to of­fer VIP race packages. And luxury ho­tels such as New York City’s Gan­sevoort Meat­pack­ing and Gan­sevoort Park Av­enue of­fer year-round run­ning packages com­plete with route maps, en­ergy gel, re­cov­ery kits and post-run brekkie at lo­cal hotspots, per­fect for fit­ting your kilo­me­tres into a week­end es­cape.

Clearly, fit­ness is about more than just health; it’s also about sta­tus. Ham­mer­ing through an Iron­man or even a half marathon—and hav­ing pho­to­graphic proof of it af­ter­ward—is the ul­ti­mate tro­phy. I came to this gor­geous des­ti­na­tion. I saw. I con­quered.

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